Chingchuan is a small village in the remote mountains of Hsinchu County, populated by aborigines of the Atayal tribe. Formerly, the Atayal men were renowned for their hunting skills, while the women were famous for their weaving. Facial tattooing used to be a feature among both men and women as a token of adulthood or honor, or to differentiate them from other tribes, when headhunting was a popular practice. Since the Japanese colonial period, the custom of tattooing grew less common, until today it is rare to see elders with facial markings.
Since Chingchuan is abundant with natural springs of hot water, the village was originally called “Wulai”, which means “hot springs” in the Atayal language. Later, the Chinese changed the name to Chingchuan, which can be translated as “clear springs,” also an apt name, not only because of thehot springs, but due to the presence of a sparkling river flowing through the village. The two sides of the village are connected by a series of suspension bridges.
Although many Atayal traditions were lost during the Japanese period of colonization and subsequent assimilation to Chinese culture, there has been a revival of aboriginal culture during the past 30 years, which has enabled the Atayal people to regain their sense of identity, expressed in weaving, dancing and songs. The Atayal have no written characters; nevertheless they have managed to pass on their language and knowledge of ancestors to each new generation. Today, the tribe is very proud of their culture. Through the efforts of schools, churches, government workers and volunteers, they now have a clearer idea of their past history, unique talents as aborigines, and future possibilities in an ever-changing world.
Visitors from acrossTaiwan,China,Japanand other parts of the world are coming to Chingchuan to visit the site where the famous historical figure, Zhang Xueliang, was kept under house arrest as a political prisoner for 14 years. Having kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek in 1936 to convince him to join with the Communists to fight the Japanese, Zhang was later arrested and brought toTaiwanwith the KMT in 1949 and given a former Japanese mansion in Chingchuan as his abode. This residence has been rebuilt and now houses a museum detailing the life and works of Zhang Xueliang, also called “The Young Marshall.”
As travelers arrive in Chingchuan to visit the Zhang Xueliang Memorial, many also trek a short distance to the hillside home of famous writer San Mao, who spent time in Chingchuan during the 1980’s, or take a refreshing dip in the nearby hot springs. The village has several artistic centers, including the beautifully constructed local primary school and the Catholic Church with its mosaics, murals and stained glass. There is also an assortment of local fruits, vegetables, and delicacies at the bustling riverside market. The Chingchuan river valley is framed by a backdrop of lush green mountains and an often misty atmosphere that brings visitors back again and again.
Chingchuan is part ofWufengTownship, which is up the hill from Chutung and about one and a half hours east ofHsinchuCity. It is the last village along a winding mountain road full of breathtaking scenery. Most visitors go straight to the parking lot of the Zhang Memorial, where smiling faces greet travelers with aboriginal food and wine. After such a great welcome, it is also worthwhile to walk through the village and meet the friendly locals, cross the suspension bridges, sample the coffee shops, small restaurants andhot springs, and visit some unusual sights such as Yawee’s stained glass workshop or the wood carving and weaving center in the nearby hills of Mindoyo.